Why you must destroy your business to make it better

The F-16 was a manifest­ation of everything John R Boyd knew about competition.
REUTERS

The F-16 was a manifest­ation of everything John R Boyd knew about competition.

OPINION: John R Boyd was a fighter pilot. 

As a cocky youngster he issued a standing challenge to all comers: Starting from a position of disadvantage, he'd have his jet on their tail within 40 seconds, or he'd pay out $40. 

Legend has it that he never lost. His ability to win any dogfight in 40 seconds or less earned him his nickname: "40 Second" Boyd.

Boyd applied his intuitive understanding of manoeuvrability to the study of aeronautics.

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In the 1970s, he helped design and champion the F-16. It was a manifest­ation of everything he knew about competition. 

He broke down his knowledge and reconstructed it to make the most agile jet fighter of its time.

Most talk about growth and innovation focuses on creation. But creation can only come from deconstruction of what you have.

You could double your business by doing the same things that got your first five customers, but you will never get to 100 customers doing the same things.

Boyd used a thought experiment to illustrate the point. He called this snowmobiling.

Imagine a motorboat, tank, and bicycle. 

If you break them down into the constituent parts, you have:

1. a motorboat with a hull, outboard motor, and a skier being towed behind it;

2. a tank with treads, a gun, and armour; and. 

3. a bicycle with wheels, handlebars, and gears.

You can break them into parts and rebuild them into many different, incoherent wholes, but a coherent and useful whole would be a snowmobile - treads from the tank, an outboard motor and skis from the boat, and handlebars from the bike.

To grow your business, you need to snowmobile it. You need to break it. This is hard.

Often the reason a business won't grow is because the leadership doesn't want to change it.

It's hard to let go of your ideas. They're your darlings. 

But you must kill your darlings to create new ones.

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 - Stuff

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